Superintendent's Weekly Reflections

By Dr. Michelle C. Reid
Superintendent's Messages
May 06, 2024

Hello Team FCPS,

What an amazing week we have had and what a great week we look forward to ahead of us. Whew, it is so amazing to have the spring (maybe summer) weather and the opportunity to be part of such an amazing season!! I trust that each of you have taken the opportunity to get outside and revel in the sun and warmth; it is so renewing …

On behalf of our elected Board of Directors, I want to share our appreciation for our teachers and staff as this week is Teacher and Staff Appreciation Week. I know that our future is safe in your hands as all persons and students of all professions will pass through our educators' classrooms. Quality, well-resourced public education is our best hope for the next generation, and the courage and conviction required by our educators to meet the challenges we face go far beyond the classroom. If you have a moment, take the time to reach out and thank a teacher or staff member you have had that made a difference in your life or the life of a family member. Thank you for all you do ...

I began last week by meeting with Dr. Lauren Kenworthy, who’s the associate professor of Neurology, Pediatrics, and Psychiatry at George Washington University School of Medicine as well as director of the Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders at Children’s National Medical Center. 

She was also a guest speaker at FCPS’ 2023 Special Education Conference. Dr. Kenworthy authored “Unstuck and on Target,” a set of resources for school-based executive function intervention. She’s partnered with FCPS educators and families for years on Unstuck and on Target best practices.  Along with staff and parents, we learned a great deal about the importance of executive functioning and social skills instruction for the success of our students; it matters. 

Later Monday morning, I headed to a ribbon cutting ceremony for a new purple glass recycling container, hosted by Fairfax County's Department of Public Works and Environmental Science. The new container redirects glass away from contaminating recycling processing machinery and becoming landfill waste. With the new purple container, glass is handled differently and can be recycled.

Robinson SS students and FBLA winners Shaan, Carmela, and DK (Duykhang)

This environmental stewardship project was created by multiple Virginia Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) students at Robinson Secondary School. The project was spearheaded by Shaan, Carmela, and DK (Duykhang), pictured above. These juniors worked with County officials to get a location for the recycling container approved through the government process before (successfully!) presenting their proposal to the Clifton Town Council for final approval. The students then presented their project at the 2024 Virginia FBLA State Leadership Conference. They won first place in the Community Service Project category and qualified to compete in the upcoming FBLA National Leadership Conference!  Wow, our students continue to inspire me!!

In total, our division had 24 first-place award winners and more than 100 students placed in the top four during the conference — you can read more about the FBLA awards here. Robinson’s Business Cooperative Office Education Teacher Rebekah Glasbrenner, who’s also an FBLA adviser, kindly shared with me the impact that FBLA has had on her and her students. She writes that “One of my favorite parts of my job is getting to see students thrive outside of the classroom through FBLA! Whether it be through field trips, competitions, community service or building new connections and friendships, it always amazes me the benefits students gain from being involved and taking advantage of these opportunities. I have enjoyed watching students grow from unsure freshmen to confident seniors by finding their niche in FBLA; honing presentation skills, creating new initiatives, and gaining confidence in leadership.” Go Team FCPS!!

Dr. Reid with students at the Edison Academy Luncheon

I enjoyed an early (and delicious!) Cinco de Mayo celebration at Edison Academy’s Bistro 1093 last week. Academy Counselor Cassandra Deedy shared that the “Edison Academy's Culinary Arts program equips students with the skills and experience to thrive in the food service industry. Through hands-on learning, students hone their culinary techniques, explore business and science applications in the kitchen, and gain valuable experience in hospitality and customer service. The program also emphasizes critical thinking, problem-solving, and entrepreneurial thinking, preparing students for diverse career paths within the culinary world.” Thank you for sharing, Cassandra! The young chefs had prepared a special luncheon with chicken tortilla soup, various fajitas, and enchiladas, and more. For dessert, guests were treated to the option of flan, lemon lime pretzel squares, or tres leches cake. The meal was wonderful — kudos to our culinary students, their luncheon was fajita-rific! ;>)

Dr. Reid speaks at the Frost MS Current Events Club

On Monday I met with Frost Middle School’s Current Events Club, along with our Chief of Schools Geovanny Ponce and Virginia State Senator Dave Marsden. Members of the Current Events Club meet weekly to discuss world news, civics, and hold mock trials. I was excited to speak with these young learners and was impressed with their interest in civics! And thank you to Senator Marsden for providing our students the opportunity to engage with a local elected official; they were so excited to have their voices heard! Go Falcons!!

 Dr. Reid with students at Woodley Hills ES

I started my sunny Tuesday morning with the beavers at Woodley Hills Elementary School. At the start of my visit, I had the privilege to film an appreciation message for teachers and staff in honor of Teacher and Staff Appreciation Week that I am delighted to share. From the bottom of my heart, I appreciate each of you and thank you for the work you put in daily for our students and our community. Thank you will never be enough! We are Fairfax! 

I loved the warm welcome received from Principal Sharon Aldredge and student ambassadors Dillion, Johan, Amy, and David (who was in the adorable mascot costume seen above!). My first stuffed animal was a beaver, so they hold a special place in my heart! I learned that Principal Aldredge first started as assistant principal here in 2001 and has served as principal of Woodley Hills since 2004! Wow! Thank you for your many years of dedication, FCPS is lucky to have you! 

Dr. Reid with Mount Vernon HS senior Daniel and his favorite book

While onsite, I learned that Mount Vernon High School students come over as part of a peer mentor program to read about thankfulness and gratitude. I connected with a senior named Daniel (seen above) over “Ten Things I Love About You” by Daniel Kirk, which is one of Daniel’s favorite books to read to our young learners. “If a rabbit and a pig can get along, then we all can. It’s up to us to change the world,” David shared. Well said, David!

Dr. Reid with staff and students at Riverside ES's Love and Health Garden

From Woodley Hills, I traveled further down the road to my next stop, Riverside Elementary School, home of the Rockets! I was greeted by Principal LaRonda Peterson and student ambassadors Kyndall and Axel. Kyndall and Axel impressed me with their eco-knowledge and their leadership roles in helping new students feel welcome at the school. They do this by giving tours and assigning themselves as automatic friends, so that even brand new students are familiar with the school and have a friendly face to connect with. Axel says he also uses his bilingual skills to help multilingual students feel connected to the school community. It was a pleasure to meet these two young diplomats! 

I was delighted to observe a planting session with students in the “Love and Health Garden'' in one of the school’s beautiful green spaces. The students were sure enjoying hands-on learning! Kathleen Herron, science resource teacher and Get2Green leader at Riverside, shared more about how her school is promoting sustainability. She says that it “earned two Green Flags through Eco-Schools USA in 2020 and 2022. In Fall 2023, Riverside registered in the new Eco-Schools U.S. program. Their Eco-Action Team Captains led various Action Cards throughout the year. Action Cards, such as Create Wildlife Homes and Days of Service, provide opportunities for deeper understanding of science concepts and environmental stewardship. On April 30, the Eco-Action Team Captains met to finalize their documentation and submit their application for a new Green Flag.” Way to go!!

Stratford Landing ES students working on a poetry lesson

My next visit was to Stratford Landing Elementary School, where Principal Kevin Morris spoke enthusiastically about leading a “writing revolution.” I was thrilled to hear it, and even more thrilled to see it in action in Piper Johnson’s fourth-grade class, where the Stratford Landing Dolphins were working together to break down the elements of poems. Before I left, I was excited to receive my very own copy of the very first issue of “Dolphin Voices,” the school’s literary magazine. What a treat to read the words and see the paintings of these budding artists! 

One poem caught my eye; it was from a sixth grade student saying goodbye to her Stratford Landing family (her “second home”) and welcoming the next class of Dolphins. It was a fond farewell, and I’m hopeful that her next school year will come with memories just as warm. Go Dolphins!!

 Dr. Reid with Belle View ES Principal Thomas Kuntz

My next stop was to Belle View Elementary School, where Principal Thomas Kuntz will soon be wrapping up an extraordinary 21 years leading the school. Thank you for your many years of dedication, Thomas! Math SOLs are coming up, and I saw sixth grade students hard at work preparing for them during their “Bobcat Block.” Lots of thoughtful questions and engaged learning under the direction of teacher Ann Hardin — these learners have the right Bobcat-itude to do a fantastic job on the SOLs ;>) Go Bobcats!!

Dr. Reid on the Clermont ES morning news show with students and staff

My final visit of the day was to Clermont Elementary School, where I received a wonderful tour with Principal Roxanne Salata and Assistant Principal Trevia Younger. I was excited to learn that I was to be a guest on the student-run morning news show. I sat in the ‘hot seat’ and was interviewed by sixth grader and future journalist, Lily Henrich. She asked what had inspired me to travel all the way from Washington state to become Superintendent of FCPS. The answer was easy; the students remain my inspiration!

The Eagles gave me a warm welcome, down to the very youngest students — I learned that Ihda Sarsour’s kindergarteners had requested a vacuum so they could clean the classroom ahead of my visit. I will say the class looked spotless! Go Eagles!!

It was a wonderful week for family and community engagement! On Monday I met with the FCPS Family Vision Group at Lane Elementary School, followed by two Community Conversations at South County Middle School and Terraset Elementary School later in the week. 

Thank you to FCPS’ Chief Safety and Security Officer Tom Vaccarello for joining the recent Family Vision Group meeting to discuss school security! At the South County Middle School Community Conversation, discussion focused on afterschool enrichment and instruction for our special education students, especially our twice-exceptional (2E) learners.

Dr. Reid at the Terraset ES Community Conversation

At Terraset Elementary School, there was an employee who spoke about the importance of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) learning for staff. This employee had offered training in conscious discipline to their staff, one of whom said it was “the most important professional development they had ever taken” because it taught them how to identify their triggers and manage their emotions in all areas of their life, not just at work. Powerful words! I so appreciate this insight and will be looking into how we could offer this course for more staff. 

Last week I attended meetings for the Middle School Principals Association and the High School Principals Association. I also met with school-based administrators for a roundtable discussion, as well as with our school psychologists and social workers and the Superintendent Teacher Advisory Council. So glad to see spirits high and motivations strong as we power through these last few weeks of school and continue to support our students! Go Team FCPS!!

Dr. Reid at the FCPS Retirement Ceremony

Wednesday was our 2024 FCPS Retirement Ceremony, and I had the honor of thanking and congratulating 180 of our retirees in person. Thank you to all our newly retired staff members for all the ways in which you’ve supported and empowered our students and families, each other, and our division over the years.  You’ve made an invaluable impact on our community! While all of us are excited for this next chapter of your lives, you will always be welcome in Our House as substitutes, volunteers, business partners, mentors, or advocates. Go Team FCPS!! 

Dr. Reid at Braddock ES' Korean Early Literacy program graduation

On Thursday I visited the graduation for Braddock Elementary School’s Korean Early Literacy program. It was great to see the young learners and their parents be so focused on learning and preparing for kindergarten. It is clear that closing achievement gaps is more effective at the youngest ages.  Go Eagles!!

What a week for student performances and athletic events!! On Thursday I attended a production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at Falls Church High School. This continues to be a play whose story I am learning.  Shakespeare is a challenge for me and a great way for our young actors to learn and practice their craft. I like the different twist the directors provided and appreciate the passionate performance.  Go Jaguars!! The day after, I caught the play “Big Fish” at South Lakes High School. What a great story as I learned it and  it was definitely well produced and performed.  Go Seahawks!! 

Friday afternoon was the Celebration of Acceptance – Recognizing PRIDE through Children’s Mental Health Awareness and Inclusion, an inaugural event celebrating the diversity and inclusion of LGBTQ+ and all youth. I appreciated the opportunity to share some comments.  Thank you to the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board, Healthy Minds Fairfax, the Department of Family Services, and all our community partners for their work in promoting mental wellness and inclusion for our young people. This work matters!! 

On Friday evening I was honored to attend and make remarks at the Our Community Salutes Ceremony, an annual recognition of the high school seniors across the Northern Virginia area who have enlisted in our armed forces. The Class of 2024 included 31 FCPS seniors who are joining the Army, Army Reserves, Marines, Marine Reserves, or Navy.

Congratulations to our wonderful enlistees! And thank you to our families, our active duty military members, and our veterans! Many enlistees are following in the footsteps of a family member who led by example, instilling the strength and determination it took for these young men and women to decide that they also wanted to serve our country. The education, experiences, and skills they will gain along this journey will serve them well in whatever future they decide to pursue — including, if they so choose, to join Team FCPS! We’re proud of our enlistees for their leadership and selflessness and wish them all the best! 

I started my Friday morning at the School Bus Road-eo at Stonecroft Transportation Center hosted by the Office of Transportation. There was a bounce house, food trucks, face painting, live music, a raffle with great prizes, and more. It was a joy to see this family-friendly event ‘round up’ such a spirited group!

Dr. Reid in a school bus at the School Bus Road-eo event

This annual team building and community event sees drivers maneuver through nine challenging driving stations (always starting with their pre-trip inspection, of course!). The stations include challenges like backing up into narrow alleyways and driving in a straight line with only one inch of clearance on either side of their tire. Our bus drivers are real pros! Along with our bus attendants, they’re also the first and last FCPS faces that so many of our students see each day. Go Team FCPS!!

Dr. Reid with a student at the Rachel Carson MS charity chess tournament

In a Fairfax Inspires segment, I want to share Shilpa Vaidya’s words about the Rachel Carson Middle School charity chess tournament from last week. Shilpa and her son Ameya (pictured above) attended the event; Shilpa writes that the student-led effort was a “huge success, raising over $2,000 to support Children’s Miracle Network, an organization that helps recovering children hospital patients. These events have become an annual tradition at Rachel Carson. In the past two years, through charity chess tournaments, students have raised over $12,000 to support charitable organizations. As Principal Gordon Stokes put it, ‘Chess is a great opportunity for students to come together and learn skills such as focus and motivation. By organizing this event, students have been able to learn valuable life lessons and spread chess to others.’” Thank you for sharing, Shilpa! And thank you to Team FCPS and to our students and families who helped make this event possible, it matters!

While I was at the Rachel Carson chess tournament, I also met Janet Dougherty, a school counselor at Garfield Elementary School. She had wonderful news to share about an exciting collaboration between Garfield and Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, which comes to life in this inspiring video. Janet writes that “At the onset of the 2022-23 school year, I noticed a keen interest among some of my elementary students in learning the game of chess. With the support of my exceptional principal, April Cage, and the generous assistance of the West Springfield Rotary Club, we were able to procure chess boards to kick start our chess club initiative.

“However, the true magic began when I reached out to the TJ Chess Team sponsor, who graciously connected me to three remarkable students. Aarush, David, and Sunny. These exemplary teens took on the challenge of coaching an eager group of students with enthusiasm and dedication. From the moment they walked into our library Aarush, David and Sony captured the hearts of our Garfield Students. Their patient guidance and mentorship has not only taught our students the intricacies of chess but also fostered a sense of camaraderie and belonging within our chess club. For many of our Garfield students, the chess club serves as their sole extracurricular activity, making the impact of Aarush, Davis, and Sunny more profound. Their commitment to enriching the lives of our students through chess is truly commendable and deserving of recognition.” Well said, Janet! Thank you so much for sharing! And thank you to our talented teenage mentors for volunteering to coach our younger learners! 

Congratulations to two members of Team FCPS who were recently recognized for their excellence! Fourth-grade teacher Laura Senturia from Colin Powell Elementary School was named the 2024 Washington Post Teacher of the Year. She was chosen from a group of 19 finalists throughout Virginia, Maryland, and D.C. for her work in inspiring learning, encouraging individual growth, demonstrating subject matter expertise, fostering collaboration, and leading by example. You can read more about her and learn why she’s called a “superhero” for the impact she has on students.

Cadi Doyle, an adapted physical education teacher at Waples Mill and Oakton elementary schools, was named the National Teacher of the Year for Adapted Physical Education by the Society of Health and Physical Educators. She focuses on inclusion and students’ ownership of their learning. She’s also developed an inclusive basketball team and leads professional development sessions. Click here to learn more about her work within FCPS for both students and staff. Congratulations to Laura and Cadi! Go Team FCPS!!

Last Friday was the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Innovator Cohort Share Fair at Booz, Allen, and Hamilton to celebrate the learning and innovations of this year’s AI Innovator Cohort. The cohort included approximately 200 FCPS staff and educators across a wide variety of departments, specialties, and representing 95 schools — a testament to how AI can have universal applications across our division! The focus of the cohort was to learn about and with AI, to reflect on its application in our work, and how to teach students to use it effectively and ethically, as we inspire them to imagine careers of today and the future. Go Team FCPS!!

I have wonderful news about an FCPS alum who’s truly spreading his wings (and his voice!), thanks to Jen Hitchcock, a Glasgow/Justice parent for sharing the news. Jen recently shared an update about Darien Roby, a Justice High School graduate.

Justice HS alum Darien Roby performing opera

While he was an FCPS student, he was a valued member of the Justice Chorus and performed in school musicals under the direction of choral teacher Dr. Chad Steffey. Darien went on to James Madison University, where he majored in vocal performance. This summer, he has earned a spot in an intensive, opera-training program in Austria! Congratulations to Darien! And thank you to Dr. Steffey, now teaching at Annandale High School, for helping empower our students to realize their dreams, it matters!

The weekend was exciting! I saw “Kinky Boots” at West Potomac High School (go Wolverines!!) on Saturday afternoon and “Fiddler on the Roof” at Herndon High School (go Hornets!!) on Saturday evening. I continue to be so inspired by our students, their performances and support of these amazing theatre productions, and the staff and parents who support them as well. Each show I have recently seen reminds me of the complexities of our relationships and necessity of doing better in terms of taking one another’s’ perspective. Below, I took a few moments to share a photo opportunity with the Herndon HS theater team on Saturday evening. 

Dr. Reid with the cast of Herndon HS's production of “Fiddler on the Roof”

As I spoke with students and staff, Scott D Pafumi, Theatre Director at Herndon HS shared; “This production of Fiddler has been a magical experience from casting to curtain. It’s a show about community, traditions, and family. These are values I hold in great importance as a veteran Theatre Educator of FCPS. Though the themes and characters of this story are of significant relevance in today’s world stage, I had no political agenda upon choosing to produce it. My wish is that all who experienced our production this past weekend left with a song in their heart and a renewed love for educational theatre.” And so, I am reminded again about how theatre is often a way in which we are able to connect on very difficult challenges. The arts remain central to education and to a thoughtful and inclusive democracy. 

National Fentanyl Awareness Day is this Tuesday, May 7. As a community, we must continue to come together to defend our young people against the dangers of fentanyl and opioids. The opioid epidemic is impacting schools and families across the nation; FCPS and Fairfax County are not immune. If you haven’t yet seen our video about the Fosters, an FCPS family who lost their son Cayden from a fentanyl overdose last January, I encourage you to do so. They shared their story in the hopes that it would help save a life. The video, which is available in both English and Spanish, is heartbreaking but important to see. I also encourage you to access the opioid resource page on our website, which contains prevention and substance abuse resources from FCPS, Fairfax County, and other community organizations.

And as we prepare for another amazing week in Fairfax County, I am reminded by Henri Matisse that “Creativity takes courage.” I trust that each of you will continue to courageously undertake our creative mission driven work as we transform public education and celebrate learning happening best in community — our FCPS community. 

Take good care,

Michelle Reid, Ed.D.

Fairfax County Public Schools